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Making Email Great Again

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Email marketing is still one of the most profitable marketing channels. As organic social marketing becomes more complex and digital advertising costs rise, communicating on a channel under your direct control, like a website or via an email database, is more important than ever. When it comes down to it, owning a (digital) house is better than renting one.  

Putting it into perspective

Cost per click on Facebook is up by 13% in 2022, and the average organic reach on a Facebook post is only 5.2% of your followers.  So even if you’ve grown your social followers to 1,000 people, only 52 of them are seeing your posts. And then there are the horror stories about brands putting thousands of hours and dollars into growing their social platforms, only to be blocked or hacked and lose all access to their profile with no hope of gaining it back. 

By building an email marketing strategy, even if you decide to change mail distribution platforms (like MailChimp or ActiveCampaign) you still own your email database and control how you engage with it.

What is email marketing?

There are four basic types of email marketing:

  1. Newsletters: News, updates, and educational content that help you stay top of mind without pushing hard sales messages.
  2. Acquisition emails: Sales-focused emails that convince targets why they should buy from you. 
  3. Retention emails: Re-engagement communications, think up-sells, cross-sells and renewal notices, to increase product use and satisfaction.
  4. Promotional emails: Showcase offers or new products to encourage purchase.

Grow up

The foundation of your email strategy is your distribution list. Growing your audience is undoubtedly the most challenging step in the journey, and an ongoing one. We’ve all seen email subscription forms and pop-ups on websites, but there’s more to collecting emails than ‘if you build a form, they will come’. Try incentivising subscriptions by requesting contact details in exchange for:

  • Exclusive newsletters or blog content
  • Gated content, like articles, videos or webinars
  • Discount offers
  • Early product access
  • Competition entries

Divide and conquer

The key to email ROI is tailoring the right message to the right audience. By segmenting your audience, you can target your content to suit their challenges and interests. Consider segmenting your audience by:

  • Industry
  • Sales funnel stage – awareness, interest/evaluation, intent, purchase or loyalty
  • User behaviour – what pages on your website did they visit, how recently have they made a purchase etc. 

Segmenting is not set and forget.  While automation can assist in some areas, lists should be regularly reviewed and users moved into more relevant segments as necessary.  People change roles, their needs change, their level of engagement with you changes.  Keeping your segmentation up to date can greatly improve your campaign success rate.

What’s the subject?

Crafting a high-performing subject line that sparks the recipient’s curiosity is as much art as it is science.  Getresponse reviewed a whopping 7 billion emails sent in 2021, analysing subject lines, open rates and clicks. Their findings suggest that when it comes to email subject lines, it’s best to:

  • Keep it short so it displays fully on all devices.
  • Focus on interesting content over length – while short subjects are easily read on all devices, longer subject lines get higher opens and clicks if found to be compelling.
  • Avoid emojis – they’ve either been overdone or come across as tacky, since they lead to lower open rates.
  • Avoid personalisation, like ‘[Name] here’s something special just for you’. It’s been overused, and with people more concerned about data privacy it doesn’t help to remind people of the amount of data you have relating to them.

If you get stuck on a subject line, there are some great free subject line generator tools like this generator from copy.ai.

An extension of the subject line is the preheader, which is the preview text that displays after the subject line.  A preheader is a must, and should flow as a continuation of your subject to entice email opens.

Look at that body

To accomplish your goals and make sure users want to open your next email, your email body should be:

  • Scannable:  People scan emails, so use headings to draw the eye and capture interest, and limit big blocks of text by reformating them into bullets or shorter sections.
  • Mobile responsive: A no-brainer these days. Think beyond layout and take mobile-only features into consideration, such as dark mode. If someone opens your email on their mobile and has dark-mode activated, will your logo vanish into the background (i.e. black on black)? Elements like images don’t recolour, so may take some extra testing.
  • What’s in it for them? Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, ‘so what?’ You can tell everyone how great you are, but if there’s nothing in it for them, people lose interest quickly. Be clear about the value you are providing, and what you are asking of them in return via clear calls to action.

Engage the robots

Work smarter not harder.  By incorporating automation into your segmentation, personalisation and sequence, your email marketing can work for you 24/7. Emails can be optimally timed, and unique actions taken pending triggers and behaviours.

How it works

Automation begins with a customer journey map, where conditions, actions and rules are mapped out to suit your objectives. The journey map consists of:

  • Start Point: A contact subscribes or buys a product, abandons cart, responds to a survey, registers for an event, visits a webpage etc.
  • Journey Points, incorporating:
    • Conditions – i.e. time delays, if/else
    • Actions – Send an email, update a contact or assign a tag

For example, a basic ‘welcome email’ journey map may consist of:

  • Start point: Contact subscribes to an audience
  • Journey point #1: Immediately send welcome email 1
  • Journey point #2: After 2 days, send welcome email 2
  • Journey point #3: After 2 days, contact meets if/else conditions of:
    • if 2 emails are opened: tag the contact ‘high engagement’
    • if 1 email is opened: tag contact ‘medium engagement’
    • if no welcome emails are opened: tag the contact ‘no engagement’

While they’re called customer journeys, they can be assigned to any audience – from staff (onboarding workflows) to stakeholders (project updates).  It pays to take the time to set up your foundational customer journeys.  The three most important foundational emails are:

  • The welcome email: These have very high open rates at approx 50% (that’s around 80% more effective than regular email campaigns)
  • The abandoned cart email (should you have an online store): Roughly 20% of subscribers who receive these emails convert to a sale. The emails should include customer reviews and other user-generated content to build trust with prospective buyers.
  • The personalised promotion email: These include special coupon codes based on customer data or activity.

The takeaways

Email marketing enables you to collect data, on a platform that you directly control, to encourage action or nurture relationships for a relatively low cost. When considering your email marketing strategy:

  • Incorporate distribution list growth tactics into your regular marketing activities
  • Segment contacts and craft content that suits their wants and challenges
  • Generate curiosity in your subject line
  • Catch the reader’s eye through great visuals and skimmable text in the body
  • Automate repetitive, time and action dependant emails
  • Test, analyse and improve!

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